An analysis a year on

When the National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) launched its ambitious manifesto “Nagaland-Towards a State of Excellence” ahead of the last state assembly elections on 18 February 2023, the promises under ‘transparency and good governance’ stood out as particularly exciting and refreshing. These pledges were warmly welcomed by the people of Nagaland. However, more than a year later, the implementation of these promises remains a mixed bag.

Public Posting of Contractor Names
One of the key promises was the public posting of contractor and monitoring engineer names on prominent signboards for all projects. This was intended to promote transparency, competition, and quality control.

On September 2, 2019, Deputy CM Y Patton, from the ruling BJP (an ally of the NDPP), announced that signboards with contractor and executive engineer names would be erected at construction sites. He directed the commissioner secretary to issue a government notification to this effect for all roads and bridges constructed under R&B.

Progress was noted on October 1, 2023, when officials from the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL) inspected ongoing works along NH-29 (Dimapur-Kohima four-lane project). NHIDCL’s executive director, Amarendra Narayan Singh, confirmed that instructions had been received to display contractor names on signboards and that they would carry it out.

It may be noted that the Construction of the said lane is yet to be completed.

However, the recent controversy in Chozuba, Phek District, where a contractor allegedly burned down grass with a ‘gas cylinder’ on substandard blacktopped roads, and the claims and counter claims by various parties following the incident, begs the question of how effective this move will be for ensuring ‘quality work’.

Tender Examination Committees
The NDPP pledged to form committees to examine the award of tenders and review those already allocated and government undertakings that have been leased.

On August 30, 2023, the Nagaland Contractors’ & Supply Union (NCSU) claimed that many officials and politicians were ignoring government rules and illegally awarding contracts through “table tenders” to benefit themselves. This claim underscores a persistent problem with transparency in the tendering process.

On September 24, 2023, the NCSU raised concerns about the implementation of PMGSY phase 3, criticizing the state government for clustering multiple districts into single project packages. The union argued that this impractical approach could jeopardize the success of the PMGSY program in Nagaland.

By May 8, 2024, the NCSU had publicly opposed the cluster tender system and urged the state government to adopt a ‘one project one firm’ system during multiple NITs, pledging to fight until the state government rectified the issue.

Zero Tolerance Policy on Corruption
The NDPP’s manifesto promised a Zero Tolerance Policy for fighting corruption and nepotism. The party also mentioned that effective and efficient austerity drives and accountability measures have been strictly implemented. However, the execution of this policy has been uneven.

Following the manifesto, on February 23, 2024, the All India Anti-Corruption Organization (AICO) Nagaland demanded a thorough CBI probe into alleged misappropriation of subsidized kerosene and fraudulent payments within the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) related to Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) projects.

On June 11, 2023, the Transparency Public Rights Advocacy and Direct Action Organization (NTPRADAO) issued a 15-day ultimatum to the state government concerning financial misappropriations within the Rural Development Department, labeling it as the “most corrupt department” in the state. They highlighted that funds meant for the “Housing for All 2022” scheme were misused by senior officials for personal gain.

Additionally, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports for fiscal years ending March 2020 and March 2022 revealed significant mismanagement in Nagaland’s PHED and Swachh Bharat Mission implementations, as well as improper planning and injudicious resource use in the Kohima Smart City Mission.

In all of these cases, accountability is yet to be satisfactorily brought to light.

Asset Declaration by Ministers and MLAs
The requirement for all Ministers and MLAs to declare their assets and sources of income, including those of their spouses and dependents, remains largely unfulfilled.

The NDPP’s manifesto on transparency and good governance set high expectations, but the progress over the past year has been mixed. While there have been steps towards implementing some measures, such as the posting of contractor names and attempts to address tender transparency, and the strengthening of PIMS (Personnel Information Management System) to weed out bogus proxy government employees, false pensioners, ghost employees, etc., many promises remain unfulfilled.

The persistent issues with corruption and lack of accountability highlight the challenges in translating ambitious policy goals into tangible outcomes. For the NDPP to truly move Nagaland towards a state of excellence, a more robust and transparent follow-through on their promises is essential.

ALSO READ: NDPP’s Manifesto Promises vs Reality on Healthcare: One Year Later

Mokokchung Times

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